May El-Toukhy
Søren Rønholt

May el-Toukhy to direct THE LIONESS a biopic on Karen Blixen (a.k.a. Isak Dinesen)


COPENHAGEN, September 20, 2019 – Nordisk Film has attached May el-Toukhy (QUEEN OF HEARTS) to direct THE LIONESS the forthcoming international biopic on world-renowned Danish author Karen Blixen (a.k.a. Isak Dinesen).

At the age of 49, Karen Blixen achieved her international breakthrough with SEVEN GOTHIC TALES (1934) and gained worldwide recognition for OUT OF AFRICA (1937), the autobiographical novel that went on to become a major motion picture directed by Sydney Pollack in 1985. 

The script is written by Jakob Weis (THAT TIME OF YEAR) in collaboration with May el-Toukhy and is based on acclaimed author and historian Tom Buk-Swienty’s newly published biography, THE LIONESS and tells the story of Blixen and her life as a coffee farmer in Kenya from 1914-31.

Earlier this year, May el-Toukhy had her major breakthrough with QUEEN OF HEARTS which received international awards, impressive reviews and was recently nominated as a Danish candidate for the Nordic Council Film Prize. QUEEN OF HEARTS is released internationally and in the US later this fall. El-Toukhy is a rising star in Danish film. She graduated from The Danish National School of Performing Arts in 2002 and since then from The National Film School of Denmark in 2009. In 2015, she debuted with the romantic comedy LONG HISTORY SHORT. 

“I have always regarded Karen Blixen as a victim. As a woman who paid a high price on a personal level in spite the great recognition she received in her professional life as an author. But when I read Tom Buk-Swienty’s book I realised that her life in Africa was filled with contradictions. She was not only a victim – she was also dominant and enslaved by her emotions. My dream is to create a film about the experiences that gave birth to the literature of Karen Blixen later in life. It is the story of a privileged woman with an almost greedy lust for adventure. She strives to live an authentic life and thereby challenges the expectations of the bourgeois structures she was brought up in. And once she returns from Africa after 17 turbulent years she is forever changed. THE LIONESS is a universal story of an intricate and passionate human being”, said May el-Toukhy. 

THE LIONESS is produced by Mikael Rieks (LAND OF MINE) for Nordisk Film Production with an expected 2022 premiere. 

“Having May el-Toukhy bring life into THE LIONESS fills me with pride and great expectations. To me it is the perfect combination having a fearless filmmaker tell the story of such a fearless woman as Karen Blixen. With QUEEN OF HEARTS, May el-Toukhy managed to tell a very complex story in a nuanced way – the same goes for Tom Buk-Swienty in his portrait of Karen Blixen in THE LIONESS, and in that way, everything fell into place when she came onboard. I strongly believe that the artistic diligence of May el-Toukhy and her original interpretation of Karen Blixen’s life in Afrika will appeal to both local and international audiences”, said Mikael Rieks.